On Thursday, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) cut the ribbon to officially open the Perry County Probation and Parole Reentry Education Program [PREP] Center.  The PREP Center provides "reentry and rehabilitation services for probationers and parolees, encouraging incarceration diversion as a sanction response and an option for justice-involved individuals to receive support services and resolve barriers to successful reintegration," stated a press release from Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles (ABPP).

The residential facility will serve up to 250 male participants throughout the year.

Former State Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) is the Director of the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles.

“Reducing recidivism works when we invest in programs to help people get back on their feet and succeed,” said Director Ward.

The state has been plagued with prison overcrowding issues for many years. Prior to the implementation of parole reform, any parolee who violated the terms of parole was sent back to prison to finish the remainder of their sentence. This was exacerbating prison overcrowding so the legislature passed a plan where anyone with a minor parole violation would be sent to jail for three to five days. This is called a "dip" in the jargon of the criminal justice system.  After so many dips, the reprobate was supposed to go back to prison for a 45-day stay, or a "dunk".

The problem that county sheriffs were running into after the parole reforms was that the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) was already notoriously behind on picking up prisoners after sentencing, and they rarely picked up prisoners for dunks at all. All this meant that the state’s 67 county jails became overcrowded, and the parole violators were not getting any services while locked up for weeks and months in the county jails. The PREP facility was originally a private prison that lost a federal contract, and eventually, the ABPP purchased it to help resolve both of those issues.

“The PREP Center will be an important tool in ensuring safe communities as we help lead folks during the transition from serving time in our corrections system to becoming productive citizens. This location is the first of its kind for Alabama,” said Ivey.

While previously probationers and parolees were required to complete sanctions in ADOC custody, the PREP Center provides another option, enabling participants to receive rehabilitative services by bureau staff and program providers. Clarke, Dallas, Greene, Marengo, Monroe, Perry, Sumter and Washington counties are the priority areas the PREP center looks to serve, with services available to surrounding counties and expansion planned in the future.

The two primary program providers at the PREP Center are the Alabama Department of Mental Health and Ingram State Technical College.

Alabama Department of Mental Health certified substance abuse and mental health treatment will be provided by a treatment coordinator at the PREP Center. This will allow for mental health assessments, individual counseling, outpatient drug treatment, referrals for inpatient treatment when necessary and aftercare plans for care upon release. 

Kimberly Boswell is the Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health.

“A major step in the path to mental health recovery is the ability to connect with ourselves and our community,” Boswell said. “The Perry County PREP Center is a crucial point on that path for individuals ready to improve upon their personal and professional skills and succeed. We are thankful to be part of this essential partnership, which will give hope to thousands reentering their communities.”

The Alabama Community College System and Ingram State Technical College (ISTC) will provide education and employment readiness services. Each PREP participant is required to complete mandatory adult education hours towards their general education diploma. If a participant already has a general education or high school diploma, he will be assessed for a technical program or referred to the Work Ready program.

ISTC announced construction on an educational building at the PREP Center and plans to offer classes in barbering, building construction, HVAC and plumbing.

“With a focus on high-wage, high-demand jobs, Ingram State is proud to partner with ABPP to offer technical programming and adult basic education,” ISTC President Annette Funderburk said. “We will focus on preparing the residents to become responsible citizens and become job-ready. Job placement will be a focus for these residents once the program is complete.”

Event attendees listened to the testimony of Richard Waldrep, a Day Reporting Center participant who overcame drug addiction with help from Bureau programs.

Randy Rhodes is the President of Harvest Select Catfish Company. He represented local businesses in the area capable of providing quality jobs to PREP Center participants.

Special guest speakers at the event included Alabama Community College System Chancellor Jimmy Baker and Alabama Seventh District U.S. House Representative Terri Sewell (D-Selma). Also in attendance were ADOC Commissioner John Hamm, Secretary of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Hal Taylor, State Sen. Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro), State Rep. Prince Chestnut (D-Selma), and State Rep. A.J. McCampbell (D-Livingston).

The PREP Center is located at 4805 U.S. Highway 80 in Uniontown.

Transportation for participants will be organized with the ADOC, local sheriff departments and jail administrators.

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email brandon.moseley@1819News.com.

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